Capital City

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Day 17  Hawera – Paekakiriki  

Today is going to be a long day, not much planed apart from a nearly 4 hour drive down to Wellington, I leave Hawera holiday park and start to head south along state highway 3 which follows close to the coastline, all the way down to Whanganui. This is my first stop for the day. Doesn’t look like much is happening as its Sunday morning but I take a walk around town anyway, first I head up to the top of Queens park for a look over the city and find the war memorial. I spot an old tram taking rides down by the river’s edge so head back down to have a look. On the way down I have a look through the New Zealand Glassworks, it’s the national centre for glass art, only a small place but there are some amazing artworks and also do workshops for anyone interested, but check there website for details.

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I carry on down the road to find the old trams and the Waimarie had just arrived back. The Waimarie is old Steam powered, paddle ship. Built in 1899 it carried passengers and cargo up and down the Wanganui river until an accident in 1952, filled her with silt and sunk. In 1992 she was lifted, restored to her former glory and on the 1st January 2000, she was back on the river, New Zealand’s only authentic paddle steamer. This time taking tourists.

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After lunch, I carry on down to find signs on the side of the road for an air show, after a quick google I find that the Royal New Zealand Air Force Air Tattoo was on at Ohakia, one of New Zealand’s airforce bases. Unfortunately, after driving around for ages trying to get in I finally find out that there were no door sales and that the show was nearly finished, helicopters overhead, planes darting and rolling around, I found a little site where I could watch the finale. With a few barrels and impressive manoeuvre’s by some of the smaller planes, the Hercules came in low, releasing off a whole lot of pyrotechnics as it climbed up over the awaiting crowd. That was the end of the show, managed to catch the last few mins, but was pretty impressive.

The rest of the afternoon was stuck in traffic, everyone one heading back to wellington from the show, and been Sunday night everyone heading back home after the weekend away. Since it had taken so long I decide to camp the night at Paekakariki Holiday Park, nice little place and only $15 for a powered site. Time for an early night.

Day 18  Wellington

I leave Paekakariki early in the morning and head straight into Wellington, New Zealand’s Capital. I’ve found on one of the App’s that there is a carpark right in the city next to Te Papa, that allows campervans to stay there for 24hours, $30 for 24hours is a bit on the expensive side as there are no facility’s but its walking distance to the main attractions and very close to my ferry in the morning. Hoping there’s still parks I head in to find most of the carparks blocked off, they are erecting a massive marquee and all the others are full. I wait around and after 30mins someone finally leaves, I race in before any of the other waiting campervans has a chance.

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Perfect parking spot with Te Papa right next door so I went inside to have a look. Te Papa is the National Museum of New Zealand. This place is amazing and free to enter, the first thing I go a see is the Exhibition on Gallipoli, it tells a few stories of New Zealand solders that fought in the bloody WW1 campaign against the Ottoman (Turkish). You walk through the entrance and get blown away by this massive, Larger than life size figure of Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott, the detail in this is perfect, everything down to the last detail. This is where the story begins 25 April 1915, the Allied troops, mainly New Zealand and Australian to start off with, stormed the shores of Gallipoli Peninsula. Hundreds were killed and many more injured. This carried on for 8 months, causing 130,842 men and woman to loss their lives. Of those nearly 87,000 were Ottoman, 2,779 were New Zealanders, 8,709 and the rest were British, French, Indian and Canadian. The exhibit shows everything from the weapons used the showing you how close the trenches were dug to the enemy’s, from the bloody first day until the hospital boat arriving back in New Zealand, the stories of the nurses returning mail with ‘killed in action, return to sender’ written on them.  Was quite a powerful display and an excellent exhibition.

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The rest of the museum is full of other great exhibitions. Mountains of the sea – showing 2500 native plants of Animals, with the main attraction the Colossal Squid on display. Golden Days – walk through iconic time in NZ, Awesome forces, Blood earth and fire – from untouched NZ to Civilization, the Bug Lab Exhibition -entry fee, plus  many more. Great place for adults and children.

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After spending quite a few hours walking around Te Papa, I head along the water front to find people jumping off this high platform into the Harbour, Apparently, this is where they hold competitions on who can do the best Bombs, biggest splash. Past this is all the bars and restaurants along the waterfront, I then head up to the Beehive. The Beehive is part of the Parliament buildings, it got is name after its shape. I go on a little tour through the Debating chamber and few other smaller sections of the building before returning to the Beehive, it’s a lot smaller than what it looks on TV.

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I head on back to the van after the tour and grab some dinner. I thought it would be a good idea to climb up to the Mount Victoria lookout to see the sun set over the city, but a wrong turn somewhere along the line made the climb a lot longer than planned, now getting quite dark and climbing through the park I finally made it to the top. By now the sun had well and truly disappeared over the hills but still a nice view of the city all lit up. After a few pictures and a long walk home it’s time to catch some zzzzz before the early morning ferry ride to the South Island.

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